May 6, 2020

The first farewell of Frank Reynolds

This probably won't come as a surprise to you, but it appears that there's a YouTube channel for almost everything. Just the other day, for instance, after listening to a playlist of greatest prison chain gang songs to help me with on-the-job motivation, I stumbled on this channel devoted to news broadcasts dating back to the 1960s, including coverage of such things as breaking news events, conventions, and documentaries. Purely by chance, I discovered the video I'm about to share with you today, one that's too good for today's news.

It's the Friday, December 4, 1970 broadcast of the ABC Evening Newsthe final appearance of Frank Reynolds as co-anchor with Howard K. Smith; he'd be replaced the following Monday by Harry Reasoner. Reynolds had anchored or co-anchored the evening news since 1968, and had become something of a lightning rod for criticism due to his outspoken commentaries, especially with the Nixon administration. (In the tangled world that was ABC News back then, Barbara Walters took Smith's place as co-anchor in 1976 by Barbara Walters; the ABC Evening News itself disappeared in 1978 as the network adopted the World News Tonight format, with, as main anchorFrank Reynolds.)

I've queued this up to begin with Reynolds' closing commentary, a farewell to viewers. The video quality is somewhat below par, but the content more than makes up for it.

I always liked Frank Reynolds, even though I disagreed often with his politics. I liked him because he was passionate about the news and the obligation to the viewers to "get it right". He was honest about how he felt; he didn't try to disguise his feelings in order to shade the way he presented the news, and I respected him for that. As the clip above shows, he wasn't afraid to let the viewers, or the network, know what he thought. And he was a terrific anchorman, his dedication to accuracy most apparent in his famous outburst while covering the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. Sadly, he didn't get the chance for a second farewell; his death from liver failure in July 1983 ended his tenure at World News Tonight. He was a newsman through and through, and I can't think of anything else that would have taken him away from it. TV  


  1. Speaking of a YouTube channel for everything, I have been intrigued by the YouTube effort of RwDt09 who has painstakingly assembled the "(pick a number) New Shows of (a specific year)". Well worth watching and entertaining. He goes back to the late 50's and carries through to the 80's sometimes breaking down the videos by network and year.

    When I saw this one last night, I couldn't help myself and watched to see if the title lived up to the actual product, "36 NEW SHOWS OF THE HELLISH MID-SEASON TV OF 1979." Please watch to see how far TV had fallen since the 60's by the time the decade of the 70's rolled around. For more than one moment, I swear I was watching SCTV classically skewering 70's TV..but these were REAL!

  2. I believe that I might have mentioned being a lifelong Chicagoan here, maybe a time or ten …
    Basically, I grew up watching Frank Reynolds doing the news, first at Channel 2 (CBS),then jumping to Channel 7 (ABC) in the mid-'60s.
    In the '50s, Frank Reynolds did Ch2's noon newscast for years; he was in his early thirties at the time, but his hair was already going gray, and he already had that deep, resonant voice - and in those days, looking older than you actually were was a sort of advantage.
    In the '50s, you were expected to be an all-rounder, and Frank Reynolds was that: noon news, weekend news, weekend talk shows - and if they needed someone in the booth to do the station breaks, you had to be able to do that too.
    At Ch2, Reynolds moved up the ranks: he eventually got the six o'clock news slot, second only to Fahey Flynn at ten o'clock, and that's where he was when Red Quinlan at Ch7 got word from the ABC brass to beef up the local news.
    It was (I think - have to check) about 1963 when Frank Reynolds and his fellow Ch2 reporter Hugh Hill jumped to Ch7; this news made the front pages of all four Chicago papers, largely because WBKB had almost no local news operation then - just Alex Dreier's 10 o'clock news, which had been a solo act.
    This was part of an overall ABC News buildup, consisting mainly of poaching name talent from the other networks and stations from all over the country; it continues to this day, to a lesser but still noticeable extent.
    It wasn't long after this that Alex Dreier decided to move to Los Angeles, and that's how Frank Reynolds got the 10 o'clock news gig at Ch7 - and there he was in '64, when Elmer Lower tapped him (along with some other local reporters from other cities) for ABC's convention coverage that year.
    This in its turn led to ABC News offering him a reporter's assignment in Washington DC in '65, and the rest is history, so to speak.

    Of course, here in Chicagoland we always considered Frank Reynolds to be One Of Us, and that remained the case for his whole career.
    When he died in '83, Reynolds was the lead story on the much-expanded local evening news, where he was eulogized by his early colleagues like Hugh Hill and anchorman Fahey Flynn (who passed away himself not long afterwards, and that's another story), as well as many Chicago figures who'd Known Him When … and there were a lot of them, from all levels of Chicago.
    All these years later, I still recall that ABC televised Frank Reynolds's Mass of the Resurrection in prime time - and how many newsmen ever got that?
    (Reynolds was the only anchorman who had "died in office" (up to that time, anyway), but still …)

    Feeling my age a bit (this is happening a lot lately), so I'll stand down for now …


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!